Booking It Forward

In my opinion reading and holidays go together like peas and carrots. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading all the time–vacation or not–but it brings me a special brand of guilt-free joy while on holidays, because I don’t feel torn that I should be doing something else instead of spending time engrossed in a book. Reading on holidays really is the perfect marriage. Give me a poolside lounge chair, a bottle of sunscreen, bottle of water, and a good book and I’ll be content for hours and hours.

One of the books I brought with me to Maui is The Nest by Cynthia D’aprix Sweeney. Funny story: I’ve actually had the book for a while, as I purchased it in November prior to our fall break vacation. I carted it with me all the way to Aruba and back without even cracking the spine. And between the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, the routine obligations of everyday life, and all the other books I’ve had on the go, I hadn’t found the time to read it until our holiday this past week in Maui.

TheNest

Just to be clear, this post is neither to review nor endorse The Nest. Rather, it is to share an idea that I was divinely presented as I reflected on one of the book’s more subtle themes. Although understated and slow to unravel, the theme resonated with me deeply, building to a dramatic crescendo as multiple plot lines converged upon each other in its concluding pages. The theme to which I am referring is the universality and interconnectedness of life that we see both in fiction and reality. In stories and in real life, these connections are what bring us pleasure and pain; they form the basis of our experience here on earth, and are the essence of our shared humanity.

So, as I mentioned, a seed was planted when I thought how nice it would be to finish the book and leave it behind, at first just thinking of lightening my carry-on load, even if just a little… I could simply leave the book on a lounge chair by the pool, or as a welcome gift in our rented condo unit for the next set of vacationers who would be staying there. And then, just as quickly as the first thought danced across my consciousness, my mind took a sharp turn in a different direction.

Circling around the notion of how many miles this book had already traveled (by air, over both land and sea), starting its journey from my home in Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada to Aruba and back; and then to Maui, Hawaii, I began to entertain how I could share my love of reading and travel, together. The formless idea began to solidify and take shape, details and logistics rattling back and forth like a pinball inside my head.

So I’ve decided to leave the book at the Kahului International Airport (OGG) in Maui with a message inside its cover. I am going to Book It Forward! Just like paying it forward, but with a book.

My hope is that a fellow book lover and traveler will find it in the airport and picks it up, perhaps even to read en route to his or her next destination. And when that person is finished reading, that he or she will pass the book along to another traveling reader? And so on, and so on, each successive traveling reader following suit by booking it forward.

How awesome is it to think about all the places this book may go, and all the people who might read this copy? I am giddy and filled will the hopefulness of a child at the prospect of setting this book free into the world—my very own message in a bottle.

If, by the grace of the universe, my copy of The Nest has made it into your hands, please leave a comment below!

Update: my husband and daughter didn’t think it was sufficient to simply leave the book on an airport bench, so they took the matter into their own hands. Last night before boarding our flight, they handed the book off to a young woman. All I know is she had just landed in Maui via Seattle. The wheels have been set in motion and this Booking It Forward adventure has officially begun…

Booking It Forward

In my opinion reading and holidays go together like peas and carrots. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading all the time–vacation or not–but it brings me a special brand of guilt-free joy while on holidays, because I don’t feel torn that I should be doing something else instead of spending time engrossed in a book. Reading on holidays really is the perfect marriage. Give me a poolside lounge chair, a bottle of sunscreen, bottle of water, and a good book and I’ll be content for hours and hours.

One of the books I brought with me to Maui is The Nest by Cynthia D’aprix Sweeney. Funny story: I’ve actually had the book for a while, as I purchased it in November prior to our fall break vacation. I carted it with me all the way to Aruba and back without even cracking the spine. And between the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, the routine obligations of everyday life, and all the other books I’ve had on the go, I hadn’t found the time to read it until our holiday this past week in Maui.

TheNest

Just to be clear, this post is neither to review nor endorse The Nest. Rather, it is to share an idea that I was divinely presented as I reflected on one of the book’s more subtle themes. Although understated and slow to unravel, the theme resonated with me deeply, building to a dramatic crescendo as multiple plot lines converged upon each other in its concluding pages. The theme to which I am referring is the universality and interconnectedness of life that we see both in fiction and reality. In stories and in real life, these connections are what bring us pleasure and pain; they form the basis of our experience here on earth, and are the essence of our shared humanity.

So, as I mentioned, a seed was planted when I thought how nice it would be to finish the book and leave it behind, at first just thinking of lightening my carry-on load, even if just a little… I could simply leave the book on a lounge chair by the pool, or as a welcome gift in our rented condo unit for the next set of vacationers who would be staying there. And then, just as quickly as the first thought danced across my consciousness, my mind took a sharp turn in a different direction.

Circling around the notion of how many miles this book had already traveled (by air, over both land and sea), starting its journey from my home in Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada to Aruba and back; and then to Maui, Hawaii, I began to entertain how I could share my love of reading and travel, together. The formless idea began to solidify and take shape, details and logistics rattling back and forth like a pinball inside my head.

So I’ve decided to leave the book at the Kahului International Airport (OGG) in Maui with a message inside its cover. I am going to Book It Forward! The equivalent of paying it forward with a book. It is just that simple.

My hope is that a fellow book lover and traveler will find it in the airport and picks it up, perhaps even to read en route to his or her next destination. And when that person is finished reading, that he or she will pass the book along to another traveling reader? And so on, and so on, each successive traveling reader following suit by booking it forward.

How awesome is it to think about all the places this book may go, and all the people who might read this copy? I am giddy and filled will the hopefulness of a child at the prospect of setting this book free into the world—my very own message in a bottle.

If, by the grace of the universe, my copy of The Nest has  made it into your hands, please leave a comment below!

Update: my husband and daughter didn’t think it was sufficient to simply leave the book on an airport bench. Instead, they took the matter into their own hands. Last night before boarding our flight, they handed the book off to a young woman. All I know is she had just landed in Maui via Seattle. The wheels have been set in motion and the Booking It Forward adventure has officially begun…

Calling All Love Warriors

Is the true mark of a good book one that’s been referred by numerous friends, approved by critics, and reached the top of the bestseller list? If you ask me, the best indication of a book’s merit is its ability to strike a chord and hit me where I’m going to feel it—right in my humanity.

And that’s pretty much exactly what Glennon Doyle Melton’s, Love Warrior, did. It hit me square in the face and simultaneously yanked at my heartstrings, while calling into question all of the darkness and light of being a woman and what it really means to be human.

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I hadn’t even heard of the author until about a month and a half ago, when a Facebook friend began posting about reading Love Warrior. She apologized to her family and friends to let them know she would be holed up in her bedroom for as long as it took to get through all of the pages of this particular story, which I distinctly recall her referring to as intense.

At the time I wasn’t sure why, but I was compelled to get my hands on a copy of this memoir by an author about whom the only thing I knew was that she went by three names. Having just finished Love Warrior and being left emotionally depleted and somehow hopeful and also changed and as though I want to read it all over again in order to soak up more of its goodness, I am again compelled to let the world know this book is an absolute must read.

I couldn’t have predicted the way in which Love Warrior would affect me, finding its way into the deepest, darkest crevices of my heart. It’s not just because I feel a strange sense of sisterhood toward the author, who obviously understands the cause and effect of being a highly sensitive person in an often intensely insensitive world. It’s not just because she has an uncanny ability to turn a phrase so simply and beautifully that it is, at once, both breathtaking and heartbreaking. (She’s exactly the type of powerful female author I aspire to become.) It’s not just because her life story is both riveting and compelling. It’s not the profound choice that she’s made over and over again to carve her path guided by trust and faith. And it’s also not just because her experiences, and her choices in reaction to them, resonated for me so deeply that I can’t even explain it, and have been left with no other choice but to feel it in the depths of my soul. It’s not just any one of these things in isolation. It’s actually all of them, and so much more.

This story reminded me of being at an interesting and critical point in my own life; standing at a crossroads where unexpected pieces of my past are converging to form the present. Similarly, Melton poignantly reflects on her experience of being a wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, and writer while overcoming the odds stacked against her. And to top it all off, she does all of this with an unparalleled sense of grace, the likes of which are rarely seen in our time.

The totality of Melton’s story of unlearning everything she once thought she knew and unbecoming everything she thought she was, is eerily familiar to me. This must be why her words have landed so close to my own heart, shattering it into tiny pieces and leaving me to pick up the debris.

While the circumstances of her life path are quite different from mine, there are a number of common threads too similar to be ignored. Warp threads are spun by two women trying to make sense of their lives and figure out their place in the world. The weft threads are the sheer determination that, no matter what happens along the way, these two women will always choose the path of honesty and remaining true to themselves. The interweaving of warp and weft has created the fabric of our lives, both Melton’s and mine.

On a side note, every time my kids and husband came home over the past few days to find me sobbing as I made my way through the final five chapters, they would always ask, “You’re reading that book again, aren’t you?” And on these occasions, they would ask me with great concern what the book was about and why it was so upsetting to me. Each and every time I failed to find adequate words to express the intense feelings it was eliciting from within me. But what I can say is this: Love Warrior landed in my lap at just the right time, allowing me to open my heart and shed a few layers of its skin as I was immersed  in a story that took me on a roller coaster ride of emotions ranging from disbelief, loss, and grief to acceptance, faith, grace, and love, and everything in between.

It doesn’t quite do justice to Glennon Doyle Melton’s gift as a writer to say I enjoyed Love Warrior, and it simply wasn’t possible for me to ignore the urge to write this post. Because doing so is the most honest choice and the next right thing I can do to honour where I am at right now. (And also because this is important work and everyone needs to read it.)

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Love Warrior has reminded me of our shared humanity and the need to keep coming back to love in these tumultuous times. It dug up and forced me to feel some deep emotional baggage that I’ve been carrying (even though I didn’t really want to). And, yes, I’m just going to go ahead and say it—it’s changed the way I choose to look at the world.

I actually enjoyed this book so much I just may go read it all over again. And if you want to read something interesting and important that was created out of the only force that matters and on which we all need to focus more of our attention during this lifetime, dare I say, so should you.

So, what are you waiting for? Go get yourself a copy, fix yourself a tea or coffee, get cozy, and start reading Love Warrior today.

Perhaps you’ve already read Love Warrior? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

56 Intentional Days

Although summer technically started a couple of weeks ago, in many ways I feel as though  summer with my family is just beginning. And with the kids slated to return to school on August 30, we have eight weeks, or 56 days to be exact, to enjoy our summer to the fullest.

Now, I don’t mean I’ll be scheduling and over programming every moment, because that certainly is not the case. That would be tedious and grueling and pretty much no fun whatsoever.

However, I’m also cognizant of going to the other extreme—not making any plans, flying by the seat of our pants, and leaving everything to chance. I speak from experience when I say this approach is dangerous. This amount of boundless freedom has a tendency to lure me into a state of submission, inducing an intoxicating false sense of security, which in the end only leaves me feeling lazy and lethargic.

I’ve finally come to appreciate that I’m a creature of habit. I crave routine and structure. I thrive on predictability and order. I’m at my best when I’ve got something specific to hold my attention and focus.

When I contrast my affinity for structure and routine against the fact that I’ve habitually been making time my arch nemesis, it’s really no wonder I’ve been feeling a little stuck in a continuous loop of “there’s never enough time in a day to do all of the things that I really want to do.” And as I’ve been working with a fantastic coach to help me unravel this and some other limiting beliefs, I feel like the time has come for a 360 degree turnaround and re-framing of my opinion about time.

I know some of you may be nodding your head in agreement with my time-as-enemy mantra, but I honestly believe this is just one of those things we all say to make ourselves feel better.

Because the truth is there’s plenty of time available when we: get intentional about scheduling our time according to our priorities, minimize the negative effect of distractions (insert social media here), and don’t let our limiting beliefs cloud our vision.

I’ve suddenly been able to put the pieces together and see, with amazing crystal clarity, my blockage about time for what it really is. It’s not that I don’t have enough time. Pppffffff! The truth is I have trouble putting myself and my needs ahead of everything and everyone else. And because of this, all the stuff I’ve been talking about—my deepest desires and the whispers of my heart—often end up at the bottom of my list.

With this new understanding I see an opening—an opportunity to form a new habit of making myself a priority, more often. As I see it, I have 56 days ahead of me right now when I can both be present for my children AND make myself and my needs a higher priority on my to-do list.

This summer, I am choosing to make friends with time by seeing it as a gift. No longer will a replay the broken-record soundtrack of “not enough time” over and over again in my head. This summer, I am choosing to be intentional about how I spend my time. And this summer I will value myself and my self-care needs by making time for me a priority.

Over the next 56 days, my intention is to dedicate some time every day to my passions and the activities that make me feel more alive and whole.

Starting today, movement (yoga and exercise), stillness (meditation), and words and language (reading and writing) have moved from the bottom to the top of my to-do list.

No attachment to objectives, no entanglement in specific outcomes. Just a dash of intrigue and a touch of excitement to see what changes and possibilities the next 56 days will bring.

Coincidentally, one of the first blog posts I wrote was about my perceived lack of time to do all the things I want to do in life. It’s kinda cool to see how much I’ve grown and how much my perspective has shifted from October 2013 until now.

Wishing you all a happy and intentional summer!

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All the Shiny Things // C’est La Vie

With the first month of 2016 more than half over, I am finding I’m just not where I thought I’d be. I am no clearer on my purpose and priorities, nor established in routine, nor closer to finding any sense of what normal will mean for me this year. On the bright side; however, one small, yet important revelation has emerged out of my marathon of mental murkiness: I am beginning to recognize my pattern of avoidance and distraction.

First things first, I had to determine whether avoidance (to avoid) and distraction (to distract) are, in fact, the same. Just to be perfectly clear so there is no confusion, the meaning of avoidance is: to avoid or keep away from something. I will use the term in a sentence for illustrative purposes:
I’ve clearly been avoiding my office—the place where I write my most prolific works.

A distraction, on the other hand, can be anything that divides the attention or prevents concentration. However, there is also another connotation of the word: that which amuses, entertains, or diverts. In other words, distraction (to distract) is a sly little term, and an even sneakier phenomenon, as it is manifests in a variety different sizes and forms in our daily lives.

Thinking and journaling on the subject has led me to conclude that even my own thoughts must surely qualify as a distraction on the road to pursuing my goals and dreams. But the following are the big three SHINY distractions that have kept me away from writing since the beginning of January:

  1. The Holidays and a Decorating Debacle

Not long ago there was thing called Christmas and the holiday season, which really is the ultimate distraction from everyday life. And of course there was decorating for the holidays: SO. MUCH. SHINY. Pretty twinkling lights. Shimmering decorations. The shiny glint and glow of packages wrapped in metallic paper and sparkly bows. I think you get the picture. The holidays are a beautiful time of year, and in many respects a welcome distraction from the otherwise mundane nature of our routine-driven lives.

And then there was un-decorating after the holidays, which took away all the shiny and replaced it with the bland and lackluster. In fact, my house looked so naked after the un-decorating process that I was forced to go out in search of more SHINY things to cover up a certain unmentionable spot in my poor naked house. This became a rather tedious process of trial and error that included many hours of shopping, buying, trying, rearranging, and returning. But in the end I’m pretty happy with how it turned out—because of all the shiny things, plus it’s better than leaving a glitter covered reindeer and frosted garland up all year long. Don’t you think?

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2. Books and Reading

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”
Samuel Johnson

It goes without saying that, in my eyes, books are irresistible SHINY things. I am currently enthralled with Still Writing by Dani Shapiro, and I plan to move on to Autobiography of a Yogi when I’m finished. There are so many other titles waiting in the wings that I honestly wish speed reading was a viable option. (I took a course a number of years ago, but something tells me I wouldn’t get nearly as much out of the process that way.)

“For all I know, writing comes out of a superior devotion to reading.”
Eudora Welty

3. 21-day Journaling Challenge

I stumbled upon a free 21-day journaling challenge (on social media—the most dangerous of all the shiny things) that started at the beginning of January. The challenge, titled A Journey to Genuineness, has proven itself to be a particularly interesting and unexpected shiny thing. If helping to establish a daily writing practice isn’t enough of a benefit on its own, pointing me in the direction of who the heck I really am certainly can’t hurt, either. Learning to distinguish my genuine self from my inner critic, who quite frankly is an obnoxious B-I-T-C-H, and journaling on topics such as my strengths, feelings, and values, has been both enlightening and cathartic. Incidentally, my number one strength is appreciation of beauty and excellence. Coincidence? I think not. It’s also not surprising to see honesty, love of learning, prudence, and perspective ranked high on my list.

The lesson I’m learning is a shiny thing can be anything that distracts you from what you think you ought to be doing. But this rule and schedule-following girl is also beginning to soften into the perspective that it’s alright to give in to the temptation.

What’s more, maybe it’s a good thing to be completely consumed by the sparkle of what catches your eye or captures your heart; to get lost in the beauty of something—simply for beauty’s sake. I’d even like to be so bold as to suggest that you allow yourself the indulgence, particularly when the call is coming from the very deepest part of you (your genuine self). Go all in—with no guilt and no regrets—and just enjoy. This is part of life. Heck, this is life, or as they say en Francais: “C’est la Vie!”

Sure, being disciplined is important, but getting distracted and veering off course temporarily isn’t the worst thing one can do, either. As I slowly come around to welcoming that which amuses, entertains, or diverts as an essential part of my life, I can see how these distractions are often the experiences and things that add colour, shine, and visual variety to my world, not to mention providing much needed mental stimulation and a break from the monotony.

I’d like to think that, even with some scenic stops along the way, I will still get where I’m  going eventually—and right in the time I am meant to. Stopping to smell the roses, swim in a freshwater stream, or climb a tree will no doubt delay me temporarily, but more importantly these distractions are experiences that can teach me valuable lessons, lead to important discoveries, or present a new path I hadn’t seen before. And even if none of these things transpire, C’est la Vie! I am willing to bet that I’ll enjoy all the shiny things I saw along the way.

I’d love to hear about your ‘shiny’ things. If you are so inclined to let me in on your beautiful distractions, please leave a comment below.